New Order

A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else)

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For readers of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Power of Habit comes a revelatory, witty guide to a clearer home and a more creative mind.
Can a decluttered space fuel a creative mind? Heck yes, says organizing expert Fay Wolf, who has helped everyone from Hollywood celebrities to schoolteachers to work-from-home parents achieve a simpler, more fulfilling life. Here, Wolf outlines her basic rules for saying goodbye to the stuff crowding up your space and hello to new habits that free you up for the things you’re passionate about. And it can all be done in as little as a few minutes a day. Learn how to
create productive to-do lists • stem the flood of paper • downsize digital clutter and social media • arrange your space to spark creative juices • curb your desire to accumulate • collaborate and connect with others for support • embrace imperfection • keep up the momentum
Wolf also shares her favorite productivity apps and resources for donating your many, many items. From the outer clutter of your home to the inner clutter of your chatty mind, this handbook will help you make room for artistic inspiration and invite you to treat yourself to less.
Praise for New Order
“Clarity, control, peace and quiet: All of these ‘nebulous golden nuggets’ can be obtained by following Wolf’s sensible decluttering program.”The New York Times Book Review
“Less stuff. Less paper. Less digital. These are some of the ingredients for a decluttered life to be found in New Order.”Los Angeles Times

New Order seriously changed my life.”—Emily Deschanel
“Fay Wolf is some kind of superhero.”—Jesse Tyler Ferguson

“Full of millennially minded tips that will help you clean-attack your space.”Refinery29
“The KonMari alternative you’ve been waiting for . . . [Wolf’s] approach is about reducing chaos so you can focus on more important things, like creative pursuits. . . . The New Order method resonates with me.”PopSugar
“Fay Wolf is living proof that being highly organized doesn’t have to mean being sterile and rigid.”Apartment Therapy
“Her message is about fun and freedom, rather than healing and fixing.”The Guardian
“How can one possibly be productive when faced with so many obligations? Enter: The Triangle of Productivity.”InStyle

“A smart, accessible, sensitive and charming book about clutter.”Hello Giggles
“Wolf has helped individuals clean out and create space in their lives for decades . . . and now she’s sharing her best tips with the world in this book.”Romper

Under the Cover

An excerpt from New Order


Less Stuff

Sort It Out + Let It Go

Welcome to the road to Better. In this chapter alone, you’ll learn how to completely declutter any spot you choose, so that all you’re left with are the things you truly need and truly love. If you’re looking for more actual space in your life so that you can spread out and write your masterpiece or effortlessly cook a decadent meal, start here.

Set Up & Sort

Choose ONE area to tackle: one closet, one surface, or one corner of your living room. Small steps to victory. It may be easier to start with the less emotional stuff (e.g., the kitchen table rather than the memorabilia passed down by your late grandpa), but there’s no “right place” to begin. Just start.

Decide on a clear staging area. This is where you’ll be sorting out all the things you decide to keep. A table, bed, or couch will do. A designated area of the floor will also work just fine. Can’t find a staging area because there’s too much stuff everywhere? It’s okay to shove piles together for the purpose of clearing a space. Ideally, you’re then going to sort through that very stuff anyway.

Set up the sorting bins nearby. They’re for quickly grouping all the clutter that’s leaving your life for good. Yeah, you heard me.

What You Need/Also Helpful

• A clear staging area• Rubber bands

• Post-­its• Scissors

• A Sharpie• Stapler

• Sorting bins• Tape

• Trash bags

Don’t let a lack of having every single item on this list keep you from STARTING.


is encouraged.

Set Up Your Sorting Bins

There are five major categories I use when sorting:





•Other Rooms

Each category has a bin.

Bin options:

1. Cardboard boxes (or “Bankers Boxes”). Not only can these be used for sorting, but afterward they can turn into storage for items that need a new home.

2. Laundry baskets or large containers you already have around the house—­provided it’s not too time-­consuming to free them up.

3. Brown paper grocery bags. Not the ideal level of sturdiness. But they’ll work!

4. No bins at all (except for actual trash and recycling). Labeled—­and clearly defined—­piles are fine.

You can mix and match. Doesn’t matter, as long as you use clear labels.

If you really want to purchase fancy sorting bins, grab some 16-­inch Folding Mesh Cubes (see page 174 in Resources). They’re inexpensive, sturdy, and reusable, and they take up almost no room to store. I recommend these as a long-­term product to have on hand for ongoing decluttering and easy transport of donations and discards.

When you start purging, each discard will go into the Donate, Trash, Recycle, or Shred bin. (Shred will be a fuller bin when you’re working exclusively with paper. But you never know what kind of sensitive info you might find among your clutter.)

Other Rooms

This bin is for items that actually do have a home, or some semblance of one, around the house. For instance, you’ve discovered your vintage Pyrex dish while decluttering the hall closet. Instead of messing with your momentum (and questioning how the heck it got there), chuck it into the Other Rooms bin and keep rolling.

Label Your Sorting Bins

Use Post-­its to create labels for your sorting categories. Depending on the type of container you’ve got, you can either stick them right on or use a binder clip or clothespin to affix. Or feel free to cut out the labels on page 181 and match them up with the bins of your choosing.

Start Sorting (and Simultaneously Purging)!

Put on some tunes, if you like. (Nothing too distracting, though.) Commit to uninterrupted time. Set a timer. Aaaand . . . GO.

Move around your space (or desk or closet) from left to right. Or right to left. The point is to curb meandering. Pick up one thing and make a decision. Then pick up the thing that’s right next to it. And make a decision.

If you’re dealing with a hard-­to-­reach space, collect a handful at a time and bring it to the staging area. Taking everything out at once tends to create more “holy shit” overwhelm. Small. Steps.

The Purge is an all-­important part of the sorting process. Most of what you’re going through is stuff you’re deciding to banish from your life forever and ever (cackle, cackle). Ideally, you’re purging A LOT.

The rule for purging is incredibly simple: 

If you don’t use and/or love it (and I mean superduperlove it and would fall into a deep depression if it was gone), then you must let go of it and move forward with a less cluttered, more blissful life. Cool?

Questions to Keep in Mind

•Would you miss it if it was gone?

•Are you keeping it out of guilt?

•Are you indifferent to it?

•Would it make someone else happier than it makes you?

•Is it ripped or broken? (And: Are you really gonna fix it?)

•Would you rather have a better version of it?

•Do you have multiples of the same item?

•What are the chances you’ll need one or four Ethernet cables ever again?

•Is it expired?

•Have you used it in the past year? Do you want to use it again?

•Have you worn it in the past year? Does it fit? (Do clothes that don’t fit just make you feel bad about yourself?)

•Are you keeping it “just in case”? (Unless we’re talking emergency supplies, please don’t keep it.)

•Does it remind you of a shitty memory?

•Or, if it’s a happy memory, how many other possessions remind you of that same experience?

•Does this thing represent your true self / tell the truth of who you are? No? Get rid of it.

P.S. What do you need all this stuff for?

Be brutal with yourself. Your (more joyous) life literally depends on it.

Pro Tip

Purging clothes? Empty the pockets. Sometimes you’ll find beloved stuff in there. Or money!

The Keepers

For some folks, the letting-­go is easy. But what about the stuff you’re keeping? On your staging area, sort the Keepers into smaller categories. Remember: these are items you use and/or superlove. Put like items together: batteries with batteries; extra staples with pencils, perhaps, in an Office Supplies category; Band-­Aids and Neosporin both in First Aid.

Using Post-­its to quickly label new categories as they come up will bring peace of mind throughout the process. For instance, decluttering a packed clothes closet may take two days to complete, and you need to sleep on the very bed that is now covered in piles. So you might take each pile you’ve made, store it in a clear plastic bag, and staple a label to the bag. Once you start the process again the next day (or in rare-­but-­acceptable cases, two weeks later), you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with and won’t have to wonder if that was the Alterations pile or the Try On pile. You dig?

Additional Categories

Beyond the basics, you may start such piles as:

•Bring to Work

•Return to Mom


Whichever ones make sense for YOU.

*Maybes are OK.

Throughout the process, there might be items that are difficult to make a decision about. Even using the purging criteria on pages 9–10 as a guide, you’re a human who is allowed to be unsure. So to keep things moving, you can have a Maybe pile. However, after a few hours of sorting and purging, here’s what usually happens: my clients look back through the Maybe pile and decide that about 95% of it can be donated or otherwise released from their lives. Reclaim what you really need and call it a day.

Real Life

Look, it’s A-­OK to keep memorabilia. I wouldn’t dare give up the 1970s rainbow mug I inherited from Mom and Dad. But it’s one mug. Not eleven. And I ultimately wouldn’t be shattered if it shattered. Because, while I love it and what it represents . . . it’s just a mug.

Pro Tip

On the fence about purging certain memorabilia items? Take a photo. Back up that photo. Let go of the item(s). And parents, listen up: there are apps that can take the worry and stress out of “How much of my kid’s artwork do I keep?!” Check out the resource list on page 173.

Everything you touched should now be in a labeled bin or pile. In chapter 2, we’ll take the next imperative steps: getting rid of all the stuff you’re ready to part with and deciding on new homes for your beloved Keepers.

Decluttering time should end with: delivering items that belong in Other Rooms, reassessing the Maybes, bringing donations out to the car (or close to the front door if you live car-­free), and taking the trash out to the curb.

Okay. Now forget everything you just learned.

You don’t actually need any of these guidelines to make a real change. Walk around your space with the goal of getting rid of ten things. Stick ’em in a bag and then go donate, trash, or recycle them. It can be that easy.

- About the author -

Fay Wolf is a professional organizer, musician, and artist. She has appeared as the organizing expert on OWN’s Home Made Simple, and is a regular contributor to Apartment Therapy—where her One-Minute Tip videos are some of the most viewed in the site’s history. Her creative work comes in many forms, including songs that have been heard on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Pretty Little Liars. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

More from Fay Wolf

New Order

A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else)


New Order

— Published by Ballantine Books —